Okay so, apparently, Sessions met with the Russians a couple of times during the Trump campaign and told Congress - under oath - that he didn't. His office is saying he didn't lie, they didn't talk about the election. Except he doesn't really remember what they talked about. But it wasn't about the leaks or the election.
Also, from a December report, about how a Republican SuperPAC connected to Paul Ryan used material from the Russian spying campaign in GOP elections.
So that's fun.
The Iowa State Senator pushing for political quotas on campus? Turns out his business degree is managerial training at Sizzler Steakhouse. No, really.
Also, the Trump administration admits more outright lying to journalists as part of a "misdirection play" to generate some inaccurate but positive reporting before the State of the Union/joint session address. Even before that came out, you were seeing criticism of their handling of it ("presidential" is now just "not ranting deliriously for an hour"?) from the New Republic.
And four mosques have been burned in the last seven weeks; three have been declared arson, the fourth is still under investigation.
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Super PAC Connected To Paul Ryan Used Russian Material Against Dem. House Candidates
By Rmuse on Fri, Dec 16th, 2016 at 7:18 pm
Speaker Ryan's spokeswoman never disputed that the material used against Democratic candidates was “stolen as an act of Russian espionage
The New York Times ran a fairly involved article on Wednesday that detailed how the Russians used the data they stole from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to attack Democrats seeking House seats. It is definitely worth a read if for no other reason than to cement the idea firmly into Americans’ consciousness that their democracy is likely finished. Something Republicans, the Koch brothers and their legislative arm ALEC have been working toward for the past eight years.
According to the NYT’s report, the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) and a second Republican group intricately tied to the House speaker Paul Ryan made good use of the Russian-hacked documents to attack Democrats running for House seats. This is, although stunning, another blatant example of Republican hypocrisy by another blatantly hypocritical Republican.
It is noteworthy to mention that Paul Ryan has said “for months” that “foreign intervention in our elections is unacceptable.” And yet, by early October, a “super PAC” close to Paul Ryan used the stolen material in a campaign ad to attack at least one Democratic House candidate during the election in Florida.
It is remarkable that at least one Republican House candidate from Pennsylvania, Rep. Ryan Costello, was aware that unflattering material about his opponent had been stolen by the Russians and did the American thing; refused to use the Russian espionage materials.
A campaign consultant for Mr. Costello, Vincent Galko, spoke on behalf of the Republican candidate and said, “We believed it was neither necessary nor appropriate to use information from a possible foreign source to influence the election.”
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Report: White House Lied to Journalists About Trump Speech in ‘Misdirection Play’
by Alex Griswold | 3:03 pm, March 1st, 2017
CNN reported Wednesday on a senior administration official admitting that the White House intentionally misled reporters ahead of President Donald Trump‘s congressional address in order to get generate positive press coverage as part of a “misdirection play.”
Multiple reports Tuesday indicated that Trump would embrace a more moderate tone on immigration and would announce that he was willing to negotiate granting millions of illegal immigrants legal status. Most of those reports, cited to a “senior administration official,” came immediately after anchors lunched with Trump. Some of those outlets then just attributed the claim to the president himself.
But when it was time for Trump to actually give the speech, he said nothing of the sort. CNN’s Sara Murray complained the next day about “the bait and switch that the president pulled when it came to immigration yesterday. He had this meeting with the anchors, he talked about a path to legal status.”
“Basically they fed [them] things that they thought these anchors would like, that they thought would give them positive press coverage for the next few hours. A senior administration official admitted that it was a misdirection play,” she reported.
Host John King wondered why reporters should even trust the White House going forward. “It does make you wonder; so we’re not supposed to believe what the senior-most official at the lunch says — who then they allowed it to be the president’s name says — we’re not supposed to believe what they say?” he asked. “Maybe we shouldn’t believe what they say.”
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Sessions met with Russian envoy twice last year, encounters he later did not disclose
By Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller | The Washington Post
March 1, 2017
[See also: no other Senate Armed Services Committee member reports ever speaking to the Russian ambassador: https://twitter.com/SethAbramson/status/837162963534372864 ]
Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’s confirmation hearing to become attorney general.
One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.
At his Jan. 10 Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) what he would do if he learned of any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 campaign.
“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” he responded. He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
In January, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) asked Sessions for answers to written questions. “Several of the President-elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?” Leahy wrote.
Sessions responded with one word: “No.”
In the case of the September meeting, one department official who came to the defense of the attorney general said, “There’s just not strong recollection of what was said.”
The Russian ambassador did not respond to requests for comment about his contacts with Sessions.
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Sessions did not disclose meetings with Russian ambassador
By Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz and Eli Watkins, CNN
Updated 11:48 PM ET, Wed March 1, 2017
(CNN)Attorney General Jeff Sessions met twice last year with the top Russian diplomat in Washington whose interactions with former Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn led to Flynn's firing, according to the Justice Department.
Sessions did not mention either meeting during his confirmation hearings when he said he knew of no contacts between Trump surrogates and Russians. A Justice official said Sessions didn't mislead senators during his confirmation.
The Washington Post first reported on Sessions' meetings with the official.
Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, is considered by US intelligence to be one of Russia's top spies and spy-recruiters in Washington, according to current and former senior US government officials.
Sessions met with Kislyak twice, in July on the sidelines of the Republican convention, and in September in his office when Sessions was a member of the Senate Armed Services committee.
Sessions was an early Trump backer and regular surrogate for him as a candidate.
Attorney General Sessions responded swiftly Wednesday, strongly stating that he never discussed campaign-related issues with anyone from Russia.
"I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign," he said in a statement. "I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false."
"This is the latest attack against the Trump Administration by partisan Democrats. General Sessions met with the ambassador in an official capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is entirely consistent with his testimony. It's no surprise Senator Al Franken is pushing this story immediately following President Trump's successful address to the nation."
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Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking
By MATTHEW ROSENBERG, ADAM GOLDMAN and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT
The New York Times | MARCH 1, 2017
WASHINGTON — In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election — and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government. Former American officials say they had two aims: to ensure that such meddling isn’t duplicated in future American or European elections, and to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators.
American allies, including the British and the Dutch, had provided information describing meetings in European cities between Russian officials — and others close to Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — and associates of President-elect Trump, according to three former American officials who requested anonymity in discussing classified intelligence.
Separately, American intelligence agencies had intercepted communications of Russian officials, some of them within the Kremlin, discussing contacts with Trump associates.
The disclosures about the contacts came as new questions were raised about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s ties to the Russians. According to a former senior American official, he met with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, twice in the past year. The details of the meetings were not clear, but the contact appeared to contradict testimony Mr. Sessions provided Congress during his confirmation hearing in January when he said he “did not have communications with the Russians.”
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Cummings says Sessions should step down over conversations with Russian ambassador
By Mallory Shelbourne - 03/01/17 10:46 PM EST
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to immediately resign following reports that he spoke to the Russian ambassador to the United States during President Trump's campaign.
“When Senator Sessions testified under oath that ‘I did not have communications with the Russians,’ his statement was demonstrably false, yet he let it stand for weeks – and he continued to let it stand even as he watched the President tell the entire nation he didn’t know anything about anyone advising his campaign talking to the Russians," Cummings said in a statement.
“Attorney General Sessions should resign immediately, and there is no longer any question that we need a truly independent commission to investigate this issue.”
The Washington Post on Wednesday reported that Sessions spoke once privately with Russia's ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak. He also spoke with Kislyak and other ambassadors during an event in July.
A spokeswoman for Sessions told the newspaper that the then-senator was acting as an Armed Services Committee member rather than a Trump surrogate at the time and that he did not remember their conversation well and didn't find it pertinent to questions from lawmakers during his confirmation.
Sessions was the first senator to endorse Trump's presidential campaign, to which he later became an adviser.
House Minority Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) echoed Cummings's statement and demanded Sessions's resignation.
"Now, after lying under oath to Congress about his own communications with the Russians, the Attorney General must resign. Sessions is not fit to serve as the top law enforcement officer of our country and must resign," she said in a statement.
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Warren calls for Sessions to resign: 'This is not normal. This is not fake news'
By Brooke Seipel - The Hill
03/01/17 11:44 PM EST
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to step down following revelations that he spoke to the Russian ambassador to the United States twice over the last year.
In a tweet storm, Warren called for Sessions to resign and for a special prosecutor to investigate the Trump administration's ties to Russia.
"It's a simple q: 'Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election?'" Warren tweeted. "Jeff Sessions answered 'No.' Turns out he met with the Russian Ambassador. Two months before the election."
"This is not normal. This is not fake news. This is a very real & serious threat to the national security of the United States," Warren continued. "We need a special prosecutor totally independent of the AG. We need a real, bipartisan, transparent Congressional investigation into Russia. And we need Attorney General Jeff Sessions – who should have never been confirmed in the first place – to resign. We need it now."
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Republican State Senator's "business degree" turns out to be from Sizzler Steakhouse
Rob Beschizza | Boing Boing
Mar 1, 2017
Iowa State Sen. Mark Chelgren wants to limit the number of Democrats the state university may hire.
This brilliant idea drew attention to the Republican's own academic background. And it turned out, oddly enough, that the institution he named as his alma mater is in fact a Sizzler Steakhouse.
"This was a management course he took when he worked for Sizzler, kind of like Hamburger University at McDonald's," Failor said. "He got a certificate."
Asked if Chelgren has a college degree, Failor said, "That's not accurate."
Shortly after speaking with a reporter, the reference to Forbco Management "business degree" was removed from Chelgren's biography on the Iowa State Republicans web site.
Chelgren told NBC News on Wednesday he was not trying to inflate his education credentials.
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Four Mosques Have Burned In Seven Weeks — Leaving Many Muslims and Advocates Stunned
“The short answer is we haven’t seen anything like this in the past.”
Albert Samaha and Talal Ansari | Buzzfeed
On January 7, the Islamic Center of Lake Travis, in Austin, Texas, which had been under construction, caught on fire. A week later, on January 14, the Islamic Center of Eastside, in Bellevue, Washington, burned.
Two weeks after that, on January 27, several hours after President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries, a fire destroyed the Islamic Center of Victoria, in Texas.
Then, this past Friday, February 24, a small blaze broke out at the front entrance of the Daarus Salaam Mosque, near Tampa, Florida.
Authorities have ruled that three of the four fires were caused by arson. An official at the Travis County Fire Marshal told BuzzFeed News that the investigation into the cause of the fire at the Islamic Center of Lake Travis remains open.
“We’ve never seen four mosques burned within seven weeks of each other,” said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups around the country. “It’s part of a whole series of dramatic attacks on Muslims.”
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The Worst Performance of Trump’s Presidency Now Belongs to the Press Corps
The media's reaction to his speech to Congress was shameful.
By Brian Beutler
March 1, 2017
By the time Mitt Romney selected him to be his running mate in 2012, Paul Ryan (then chairman of the House Budget Committee) had already cultivated the reputation within the political press corps of an earnest, well-meaning numbers guy. Ideological? Sure, maybe, but not at the expense of numerical and analytic truth.
There were, to be clear, many problems with that depiction, but his ability to burnish it over the years in the face of facts (an anti-poverty crusader whose policies would strip health insurance from millions?) has been the hallmark of his career.
Yet for a brief moment that election summer, the Ryan mythos fell into doubt. In accepting his party’s nomination to seek the vice presidency, Ryan delivered a speech riddled with easily checked falsehoods and exaggerations. At a moment when reporters were scrutinizing him more closely than ever before, finding questionable assertions and padded resume lines, Ryan needed to play his convention speech unusually straight. Instead, among other things, he blamed President Barack Obama for the shuttering of a GM plant in his district that shut down before Obama took office, and for the failure of a fiscal policy commission that Ryan personally sabotaged.
Obviously the damage Ryan did to himself with his most powerful fanbase wasn’t permanent. It didn’t even last very long. But at least the political press corps took notice, and said something.
President Donald Trump has discovered, perhaps unwittingly, how to hack the Ryan problem. Where Ryan has built himself up as an honest, poised man of substance, Trump not only has never pretended to these particular virtues, he has delighted in demonstrating their political uselessness.
This is why he was able to deliver a thoroughly dishonest, scapegoating first address to Congress—the kind of speech that made Ryan’s 2012 keynote seem George Washington-esque—and nevertheless win rave reviews from the political commentariat.